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Badlands South Unit May Become Tribal Park; Hunter Fears Casino Gambling

In more race-based conclusion-jumping, the Madison Daily Leader editorial page is feeling queasy about the proposal to turn the South Unit of the Badlands into the first tribal national park. Letting the Lakota run the Stronghold, frets publisher Jon Hunter, might hinder ranching and expand gambling:

Detractors are concerned about pushing aside cattle ranchers. One rancher, Sandra Buffington, told officials Wednesday, "Today, we're about to lose our whole livelihoods...I'm pretty scared right now."

We have another concern: Some proponents have suggested that the cultural center could become the nucleus for other development including a hotel, convenience stores and a racetrack with parimutuel betting. If so, building a casino wouldn't be far behind.

We support tourism and economic development, but we'd hate to see a scenic national park become a gambling destination. The Park Service, Oglala Sioux Tribe and Congress should put together a plan that preserves the beauty of the park, makes it accessible to all Americans, protects the economic interests of current ranchers, and prevents the addition of gambling [Jon Hunter, "National Park Shouldn't Turn into a Casino," Madison Daily Leader, 2013.12.19].

The press Hunter cites does not mention any plan for a South Unit casino. The Oglala Sioux already have the Prairie Wind Casino within an hour's drive of the South Unit. I'm not sure a business case exists for a competing casino on a landscape whose main attraction is its rugged, almost mystic desolation. The Oglala Sioux might stand as much chance of turning a profit on an extreme sports lodge, catering to hikers, campers, and ultramarathoners looking for a challenge and for night skies unsullied by metro light pollution.

I'm no fan of gambling. But one could argue that the ranching Hunter wants to protect does more damage to the Badlands ecosystem than would a casino next to the White River visitor center.

We've built an entire state on broken treaties, invasive species, and other practices that offend Lakota sensibilities. We have no problem dedicating an entire town at the entry to the sacred Black Hills National Forest to gambling. To hand a desolate chunk of land that we once used for a bombing range over to the Oglala Sioux Tribe and dictate that they not use it in ways that offend our sensibilities is doubly hypocritical.


  1. moses 2013.12.31

    If its their land, let them do what they want.

  2. Rick 2013.12.31

    Some middle-aged, scared, well-to-do white guys seem to have trouble when those "colored people" find a path to self-empowerment. Hunter needs to keep his snoot confined to matters of concern to Lake County where folks know that the boy ain't quite right.

  3. bret clanton 2013.12.31

    Does anyone have any numbers as to how many Native American ranchers will be forced out to allow this park to happen? Also how much Native American privately owned property is proposed to be taken through eminent domain? Is this proposed park to be managed by the National Park Service? Maybe someone is getting sold a trunkful of beads again......

  4. Douglas Wiken 2013.12.31

    Rapid City Journal interviewed Native American ranchers. They may actually have been who persuaded tribal government to re-consider. Every problem on the reservations is not necessarily the result of evil white eyes.

  5. interested party 2013.12.31

    Doug: it must be hard for you to know which group to hate more, huh?

  6. Roger Cornelius 2013.12.31

    Native Americans ranchers generally fit in the category of nose bleed Indians.

  7. Douglas Wiken 2013.12.31

    IP, I don't hate any of them. Reality is, mythology isn't. It is incredible naivette to assume that everything brown or red is good and everything white is evil. Native Americans who want to work and prosper should be supported and not attacked.

  8. El Rayo X 2013.12.31

    Unemployed cows hanging out in Indian casinos sounds like a recipe for trouble. Keep up the good fight Mr. Hunter.

  9. Deb Geelsdottir/ 2013.12.31

    Moses, I'm with you.

    El Rayo X, or should I call you Mr. Troll, why are you hiding? Shame about what you said? Probably. Hopefully.

  10. grudznick 2013.12.31

    I don't know that the place would become a haven for a tribal casino. Heck, the one they have is already so far off the beaten path it's dying. And I think it's the only dry casino but maybe that has recently changed.

    If the tribes were to put up neato adventure resorts and lead horses or mules into the country there you might really have something.

    Outside of Mr. Dithmer and 3 others, I wonder how many of you have actually trod the country under discussion. Ms. Geelsdottir, have you trundled from out of state to put your boot prints on this part of turtle island?

  11. Roger Cornelius 2013.12.31

    grudz, how do you know that the tribal casino on the Pine Ridge Reservation is dying? Do you have some inside information the tribe doesn't?

    Casinos anywhere are destination points, that is why buses are used. Nevada wasn't exactly a haven for casinos either.

  12. grudznick 2013.12.31

    Mr. C, I've been there more than once.

    I have a close friend in Oelrichs who insists that when I visit we dine there. Good breakfasts. You get to put your own gravy on your taters and such which is always a plus. Stay away from the seafood on Thursdays. I'm just sayin...

  13. Douglas Wiken 2013.12.31

    Tax the gamblers instead of the casinos. License gamblers, drinkers, and pot users. Forbid gambling with cash. Only gambling debit cards refillable but with discounted value at county treasurers. The devastation gambling does to other South Dakota businesses was graphically and numerically demonstrated when "gambling" was unconstitutional for a few months. It was the kind of social experiment social scientists can usually only dream about.

  14. Les 2013.12.31

    I saw that in my biz both when the video lottery started and during those few months Doug. I seldom stop at any casino other than to eat or for music, but when I happen to stop on the Rez, it is many of those natives who can least afford it shopping the machines. For those of us prone to addictions Roger, I would hope those Rez casinos are going going gone?

  15. grudznick 2013.12.31

    Mr. Wiken! You are insaner than most but sometimes the insane are brilliant!!! Those are some pretty good ideas. I really like the gambler license tax. I wish you could have gotten that one in under the wire to be submitted as part of the Madville Legislation bill.

    Wonderful ideas!

  16. Roger Cornelius 2013.12.31

    You can hope all you want that reservation casinos are going, going, gone. They are here to stay and likely will expand.
    I'm not a gambler, but if the tribe can enjoy some revenue and provide employment for their adventure, more power to them.
    A gamblers license, really? That wouldn't even gain traction in the legislature, just ask the representatives that having gambling in their districts.
    Perhaps there should be a drinker's license, an eating license, a toilet license, etc. Or maybe tax bloggers and their commentators.

  17. Roger Cornelius 2013.12.31

    moses is right!

  18. Deb Geelsdottir/ 2014.01.01

    Oh Grudz! Your memory of what I've said about myself must be awfully short!

    50 years a SD native. Plenty of time on every res in SD, except Cheyenne EB. I've spent some time there and Standing Rock, but I'm not acquainted with anyone there like I am on the others.

    Oops. Flandreau. Don't know anyone there either.

  19. grudznick 2014.01.01

    I'm sorry Ms. Geelsdottir. I thought you lived in Minnesota or somewhere like that and were just slumming in these parts. Glad you know people on every rez but a couple. If you run into my old friend Duggan Bad Warrior, give him a hug for me. Manages building projects and stuff. Except he's usually in EB, so you probably don't know him.

  20. Roger Elgersma 2014.01.01

    There must be tribal soveriegnty on tribal land.

  21. Douglas Wiken 2014.01.01

    Licensing only for Native American sovereign toilets. I am familiar with reductio ad absurdum, but it really isn't very persuasive. A license for gambling, purchasing alcohol, marijuana, etc could be a revenue source, but more importantly might be a way to both fund addiction treatment and also reduce it. Incidentally, what is a "nose bleed Indian". That is a slam I am unfamiliar with.

  22. bret clanton 2014.01.01

    Although I am not familiar with the term nose bleed Indian I can only assume it is a derogatory term aimed at ranchers..? Native American ranchers...? Native American ranchers within the reservation..? Why such disdain for your fellow man....?

  23. Les 2014.01.01

    It appeared to me as the native ranchers who drove bigger and newer outfits than I could ever afford while selling me oats they paid 15 cent a bushel to the government and charging me $1.25. Roger obviously cares for his white brother and wasn't one of the nose bleeders.

  24. Roger Cornelius 2014.01.01

    Native American politics is not that much different from American politics.
    Just as there is disdain for Democrats by Republicans and vice versa and even the internal struggles within both parties there are different political groups on the reservation.

    It is naive to believe that all tribal members are unified on any political issue, outside observers often say that tribal people need to come together and be united. Right! Just like South Dakotans and Americans come together on political issues of the day.

  25. jerry 2014.01.01

    You are correct Mr. Clanton, it is derogatory against Native ranchers or any Native that does not have a blood quantum that some feel adequate to be called Native. It has no place here or anyplace else. Small minds sometime find that this kind of bashing suits their needs to feel superior, me, I find it boring.

  26. Deb Geelsdottir/ 2014.01.01

    I do live in MN now. I moved here in the mid 90s for grad school, and then back to SD. I moved to MN again in 2007. It's not likely I'll live in SD again. I still love the land, especially West River, and lots of the people. I'm learning there is a lot to like about MN too. Still, eventually I'll move to New Mexico. Beautiful country, sparsely populated, fairly liberal, and WARM!!!!

  27. Douglas Wiken 2014.01.02

    I had to Google "nosebleed Indian" to determine the nature of Roger's racial slur. It is sly humor and clever, and suggests that a person would lose all their Native American blood if they had a nose-bleed. I have no idea how much Native Blood the ranchers had. Perhaps the RC Journal can check on that to satisfy Roger.

  28. Deb Geelsdottir/ 2014.01.02

    I think every race has its expectations of Best True Member. Of course ethnicity is at the top of the list. Appearance is usually second. For some African tribes it's skin color; the darker the better. I had a classmate from Cameroon in grad school. I've never seen anyone blacker. He was so blue black it seemed like his skin was almost iridescent. Fantastic!

    Among Caucasians, the epitome is blonde hair, blue eyes and pale skin. The rest of us are fairly acceptable.

  29. grudznick 2014.01.02

    Thank you for the explanation, Mr. Wiken. I didn't even understand that much an tried to research it but I am not much at the googling and bings.

    That Mr. Cornelius would uses that term disturbs me. But I am more educated now, thank you for that.

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